Matt Besler stood at his locker and listed each of Sporting Kansas City’s 2012 objectives. He tapped his fingers together as he registered each one, as if to check them off the list.
They stayed separated as he stated the final goal: An appearance in the MLS Cup.
An accomplished season ended Wednesday night without the grand prize, as Houston bounced Sporting KC from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Sporting KC won the second leg of the playoff series 1-0 on Wednesday night but lost 2-1 in aggregate scoring.
“This is going to hurt. We didn’t get it done,” Besler said. “I don’t want to sugarcoat it and say the season was great because of our regular season. It’s an empty feeling.”
While the playoff loss tarnished what Sporting KC figured to be a lengthy playoff run, players were quick to emphasize it didn’t take away from a regular season that included a U.S. Open Cup championship.
Sporting KC also won the Eastern Conference regular season crown for the second straight year, besting second-place D.C. United by five points. In the process, it allowed the fewest goals in the league.
“We’re going to look at (this season) and say they were some very good things,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “But we fell short of all of our goals. We were a very competitive team (and thought) we could get to the MLS final. That was our goal, and we fell short of that one.”
The Open Cup title — the first since 2004 for Sporting KC and only the second in franchise history — earns the team a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, meaning it will play other winners from North and Central American for a prestigious tournament next summer.
Still, that didn’t take away from the disappointment for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
“Of course we’re disappointed, and we should be, because we have the potential to be one of the two teams in the MLS Cup,” Nielsen said. “We have a lot of talent, so of course we’re very, very disappointed.”
Forward Kei Kamara pointed to the Open Cup run as a reason to view 2012 as a successful year. He also keyed on the support Sporting KC garnered during the season.
Livestrong Sporting Park saw the second-largest MLS crowd in venue history Wednesday night.
“People can come out on a weekday and support us like that, it’s a successful season,” Kamara said. “I can’t apologize to the fans, but all I can say is, ‘Thanks for all their support.’ ”